December 8, 2022

TikTok has announced an upcoming tightening of its policies around political accounts using its video-sharing platform, such as those belonging to political parties, politicians, and governments.

These changes appear to be intended to reduce political confusion (for lack of a better term) – with an incoming ban on the use of monetization features (such as gratuities, gifting and e-commerce) or on the use of the video-sharing platform to directly request campaign donations.

Political accounts will also not be eligible for TikTok’s Creator Fund, as well as not being able to access ad features by default.

A spokeswoman for the company said the changes are aimed at promoting a positive environment and reducing polarization in line with its mission of being an entertainment platform. TikTok said the changes will be rolled out and/or begin to be implemented in the “next weeks.” He also emphasized that the new policies are being implemented globally.

In a blog post about the policy update, he added:

TikTok is an entertainment platform where people come to share their stories and also understand the experiences of others. These stories can touch all aspects of their lives, including current events such as elections and political issues. as we are started beforeWe want to continue to develop policies that foster a positive environment that brings people together, not divides them.

While TikTok has banned political ads since 2019, it’s a bit ahead now – saying it wants to build on that ban on “political content in ads” by implementing account-level ad restrictions.

“This means that accounts belonging to politicians and political parties will be automatically turned off, which will help us implement our current policy more consistently,” she explained.

TikTok notes that there may still be “limited” situations where political accounts will be allowed to advertise – such as raising awareness for public health causes. But she said government organizations would be “required” to work with a company representative in order to run such campaigns, so they would examine all applications.

“We recognize that there will be occasions when governments may need to access our advertising services, such as to support public health and safety and access information, such as advertising for enhanced Covid-19 campaigns,” she noted, adding: “We will continue to allow government organizations to advertise in limited circumstances, They will be asked to work with a TikTok representative.”

Changes related to the campaign’s fundraising petition will see TikTok reject content that appeals directly for donations.

TikTok gave examples of “a video from a politician asking for donations,” or “a political party directing people to a donation page on their website” as the types of fundraising content that won’t be allowed under the new policy. But it remains to be seen if politicians will find creative/coded ways to encourage fundraising on TikTok that work around these limits. As always, a policy is only as strong as the enforcement it receives.

“TikTok is first and foremost an entertainment platform, and we are proud to be a place that brings people together for creative and entertaining content,” the company added in the blog post. “By banning campaign fundraising and limiting access to monetization features, we aim to strike a balance between enabling people to discuss issues relevant to their lives while protecting the creative and fun platform our community wants.”

It’s not clear how much political grumbling is currently happening on TikTok. Asked if there are a large number of political accounts that use monetization features like tipping and so on, a company spokeswoman declined to specify, saying the company does not release information about specific user demographics.

While TikTok is clearly very keen on its platform being seen as “just a little bit of harmless fun”, it can’t avoid being a “hot potato” political topic in its own right.

For years, lawmakers and intelligence agencies in the West have raised a range of concerns related to TikTok being owned by a Chinese company and thus subject to extensive national security laws that give the Chinese state sweeping powers to access data held by tech companies. Hence it has invested in opening so-called “transparency centers” and moving US users’ data to Oracle servers (as well as announcing plans to localize in the EU as well). Although concerns persist about the ability of employees in China to access the data of Western users.

TikTok has also faced sporadic accusations that it censors views that do not align with the Chinese Communist Party – although it refutes that claim. Other political concerns raised by the program in the West relate to its ability to trace users, given the amount of user data it captures (including concerns about biometric data), as well as broader concerns about its ability to influence public opinion by implementing powerful content-sorting algorithms. Fear – or paranoia – here is that TikTok is a very successful foreign influence brainwashing Western children…

Just Last monthThe British Parliament closed a TikTok account days after it was opened after it faced criticism from senior MPs and peers who described the data security risks associated with using the app as “substantial”. Therefore, it may take more than a few policy tweaks for TikTok to rise above political discord.

This report has been updated with responses from TikTok

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